Archive for the ‘Patriot Act’ Category



“When Fascism comes to America, it will come carrying the cross wrapped in the flag.” 
-Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters  by C.S. Lewis

BTC – You have the opportunity to help your legislators vote down the “Patriot Act”.


Act as if it had not passed yet, as if there were not yet wiretapping programs and you had not lost your privacy and freedom from arbitrary surveillance. Yet move with as much consternation and venom as the day you realized you were lied to about the WMD’s in Iraq or that Rumsfeld, NORAD and domestic intelligence agencies knew planes were headed for the twin towers.

Here are two action alerts. Say it more than once. The message gets through when you clear your throat and repeat yourself to several friends who are clear headed on what they have lost.

c/o EFFector >>

Confused by all the proposed changes to the Patriot Act ricocheting through the Capitol? The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has put together a handy chart comparing the current law with the various amendments in the House and Senate.

The chart compares proposed amendments (.pdf) to National Security Letters (NSLs) and the so-called “lone wolf” provisions of the Patriot Act. The proposals have only been passed by the judiciary committees, and face further amendments before they hit the full House and Senate for votes.

According to Gregory Nojeim, CDT’s director of project on freedom, security and technology, although neither of the current proposals goes far enough in fixing all of the problems that civil libertarians find in the Patriot Act, they do show improvements.

“There’s no doubt that the legislation that emerges from this process and goes to the president will have additional civil liberties protections,” he told Threat Level. “It will certainly fix the gag order provision that comes with NSLs, to bring it in line with the Constitution. It will certainly have more reports to Congress and audits to ensure more transparency in the use of key Patriot Act powers.”

He notes that the House bill is the better of the two bills, since it would allow the “lone wolf” surveillance provision — which the Justice Department says has never been used — to expire at the end of this year. It also offers a standard for NSLs that is slightly more strict than the Senate version and imposes a December 2013 sunset on NSL authority that would roll back their usage to what was allowed prior to the passage of the Patriot Act.

NSLs are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more. :::MORE HERE:::

c/o EFF
by Kevin Bankston

After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers’ PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill’s reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.

Even better, the Committee kept going after it was finished with PATRIOT to consider Representative Nadler’s State Secret Protection Act (HR 984), which would reform the state secrets privilege that the government has repeatedly used to try and throw EFF’s warrantless wiretapping cases out of court. After an impassioned defense by Mr. Nadler, who described how the government has used the privilege like a “magic incantation” to cover-up wrongdoing and warned that state secrecy “is the greatest threat to liberty at present,” the bill passed with even better numbers than the PATRIOT bill, 18 to 12!

It was, to say the least, a busy couple of days in the House Judiciary Committee. If you want the entire blow-by-blow of both day’s meetings, check out our Twitter stream at @EFF.

Admittedly, the PATRIOT bill isn’t all we had hoped for — as we described yesterday, it’s been weakened in a number of ways due to quiet pressure from the Obama Administration — but it passed through the Committee with most of its major reforms intact, and it is a substantial improvement over the PATRIOT bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Meanwhile, the state secrets reform bill made it through the committee without being watered down at all, with only a few technical changes. Thanks and congratulations to the representatives and activists that worked so hard to make that happen.

Eyes now turn to the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee’s PATRIOT Bill (S. 1692) will soon land on the floor, and to the House Intelligence Committee, which will soon be marking-up its own competing PATRIOT bill with much fewer reforms (HR 3969). So, the war is far from over. But two important battles were won today.

c/0 EFF UPDATE >> Julian

It appears that the only television news network that’s been regularly covering the PATRIOT Act renewal process in Congress has been FOX News, and its coverage has seemed a lot more like pro-PATRIOT propaganda than unbiased news reporting. Fortunately, Julian Sanchez of The Cato Institute has been fact-checking this closely.

In other news….

Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate
Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reform

It looks like most of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee weren’t swayed by last week’s New York Times editorial, which suggested they consider USA PATRIOT Act renewal a “critical chance to add missing civil liberties and privacy protections, address known abuses and trim excesses that contribute nothing to making America safer.”

Instead, the Committee passed a bill to renew all of the PATRIOT powers that were set to expire at the end of the year, with only a handful of the original reforms that were first proposed by Senators Feingold and Durbin’s JUSTICE Act and Committee Chairman Leahy’s original PATRIOT renewal bill.

No, rather than adding more protections to the bill, the Committee voted to accept seven Republican amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act to remove the few civil liberties protections left in the bill after it was already watered down at the previous Committee meeting. Surprisingly and disappointingly, most of those amendments were recommended to their Republican sponsors by the Obama Administration.

As Senator Feingold so elegantly stated in his post-vote blog post on Daily Kos: “In the end…Democrats have to decide if they are going to stand up for the rights of the American people or allow the FBI to write our laws.”


Tell your Senators to support PATRIOT reforms like those in the JUSTICE Act!

EFF Supports JUSTICE Bill to Reform the USA PATRIOT Act and Repeal Telecom Immunity

Legislative Analysis by Kevin Bankston

On December 31, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that broadly expanded government surveillance authority in the wake of 9/11 are set to expire.1 The Obama Administration made clear in a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that although the Justice Department supports reauthorization of those provisions, it is also open to discussing modifications to the law “to provide additional protection for the privacy of law abiding Americans.”

Today, Senators Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin — along with eight other Senators — have taken the Administration up on its offer by introducing the JUSTICE Act, which would rein in the worst excesses of PATRIOT and last year’s FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The announcement of the bill’s introduction, along with a fact sheet outlining the bill’s details, is here; the text of the JUSTICE Act is here (the “JUSTICE”, if you’re wondering, stands for Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts”).

The JUSTICE Act would renew two of the three expiring PATRIOT provisions, PATRIOT sections206 (John Doe roving wiretaps) and 215 (FISA orders for any tangible thing), but would also add strong new checks and balances to those provisions and to the PATRIOT Act in general, especially those provisions dealing with the government’s authority to issue National SecurityLetters. If passed, the bill would also establish critically important protections for Americans against surveillance authorized under the FAA. Of particular importance to EFF’s clients in theHepting v. AT&T case and to the preservation of the rule of law, JUSTICE would completely repeal the FAA provision intended to legally immunize telecoms like AT&T that illegally assisted in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. Last summer when Congress passed the FAA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated his intention to revisit that law as part of the PATRIOT renewal debate, and we’re very glad that Senators Feingold and Durbin have kick-started that process.

We’ll be blogging more about the JUSTICE Act and other PATRIOT-related proposals in anticipation of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing next week on PATRIOT reauthorization, and we’ll alert you when the time is ripe for you to contact Congress through our Action Centerand voice your support for PATRIOT reform. In the meantime, EFF applauds Senators Feingold and Durbin, as well as cosponsoring Senators Akaka, Bingaman, Menendez, Merkley, Sanders, Tester, Udall, and Wyden, for their continuing hard work to protect Americans’ civil liberties. EFF would prefer that none of the expiring PATRIOT provisions be renewed, but if they are, they absolutely must be accompanied by meaningful new checks and balances like those introduced today. It’s time that JUSTICE was restored.

  1. 1.Actually, although the three expiring provisions are commonly referred to in the press as being PATRIOT provisions, one of the expiring provisions — the so-called “lone wolf” wiretapping provision allowing the government to target for foreign intelligence surveillance individuals that have no link to any foreign power or terrorist organization — was actually passed as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.